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The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change Hardcover – May 29, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781610390675
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610390675
  • ASIN: 1610390679
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #813,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The Washington Post
"[A] warmly human account."

The National
“To understand their lives, the author … takes us deep inside the smallholder's struggle…. Thurow has us hanging on the dramatic tensions affecting all four families: one finds the calf they'd depended on to cover future educational fees has died… Where Thurow is most effective is the interplay he weaves between hunger and policy - or its absence… Readers of The Last Hunger Season will find themselves getting caught up in these dilemmas, then breathing a sigh of relief to learn that the farmers Thurow followed in 2011 enjoyed reasonably good yields that year - seven to 20 bags of harvested maize apiece - thanks to One Acre's seeds and training.”
 
Publishers Weekly
“Empathetic and eye-opening…. Thurow paints a sobering but ultimately hopeful picture of a continuing food crisis in Africa and some of the things people are doing to mitigate it.”
 
Beliefnet
“Awe-inspiring . . . A well-told story of scarcity and hope.”

Financial Times
“Part of the beauty of this book is that it is not the story of foreign aid workers. Nor indeed does the author, a former Wall Street Journal reporter with decades’ experience of writing about Africa and agriculture, intrude. Rather it is the tale of villagers such as Wanyama who is grappling with dilemmas familiar to millions of rural and indeed urban Africans: whether to devote scant money to health, education for the children, or food…. This book shows us why history does not have to repeat itself."

Weekender
“The Last Hunger Season is as much a look at the distortions of agricultural development in Africa as it is a gritty underdog tale of hope and survival. The issue of malnutrition and hunger in children and adults living in impoverished conditions is a vast one. But Thurow does a good job not only touching on those problems but also deeply exploring the trials and tribulations associated with farming in Kenya. His voice is even-keeled, hopeful and respectful, and it’s almost impossible for the reader to not be personally impacted by the stories he tells.”

Melinda Gates, Impatient Optimist
“At our foundation, the team that works in agriculture thinks a lot about the following contradiction: We are aiming to improve the lives of farmers in very poor countries, but we live and work far away in a very rich country. How can we—from an office building in Seattle—actually understand the aspirations of farmers in, say, Kenya? I just read a book called The Last Hunger Season that I believe gets me a little bit closer to understanding…. I loved the book.”

About the Author

Roger Thurow is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He was, for thirty years, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal.    He is, with Scott Kilman, the author of Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, which won the Harry Chapin Why Hunger book award and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award. He is a 2009 recipient of the Action Against Hunger Humanitarian Award. He lives near Chicago.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
5 star
73%
4 star
16%
3 star
11%
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See all 44 customer reviews
For one, it is very well written.
A. Berke
Every time I feel like I am having a rough day I can read this book and realize life could be much worse.
Cliff
One Acre Farms gives hope to these families.
Steve

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John Coonrod on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Chicago Council senior fellow and former Wall Street Journal writer Roger Thurow has published a new book that was on sale during the Council's pre-G8 event.

I strongly recommend it. Thurow follows the lives of farm families in Western Kenya throughout the year 2011 as they struggle to overcome hunger. Their productivity is being greatly enhanced through the "One Acre Fund" (<...>) - a social enterprise founded by Andrew Youn, an American son of Korean immigrant parents that now serves 50,000 families.

Youn has been called the "Paul Farmer of Agriculture" - an individual of unyielding persistence as he and his team overcome logistical barriers to deliver improved seeds and fertilizer (on credit), training and farm insurance to farmers throughout his area.

Those working in African development will recognize much of what One Acre Fund does in Kenya: awakening people to a new possibility, training local facilitators, providing skills in row-planting and microdose fertilizer. Many will also recognize that - as impoverished as the Kenyan villages are - farmers have a profound commitment to securing quality secondary education for their children as their highest aspiration.

Like Steinbeck, Thurow follows the experiences of four families as they live through the major phases of the cropping year: the land preparation, the planting, the "hunger season," the harvest, and the second planting. He also neatly folds in the historic events unfolding beyond the villages - the famine in Northern Kenya receiving foreign food aid even as Western Kenya has a bumper harvest it cannot sell, Tony Hall fasting to force Congress to not cut food security funding, and the G8 in Paris giving little priority to food security as the global recession deepens.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By BigRedPencil on May 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Global hunger is a tough story to tell. It's complicated, depressing at times and lacks the sort of glitz and celebrity that editors and readers seem to prize these days. So it's great to see a journalist of Roger Thurow's caliber and skill step up to tell the important story of global hunger -- why it exists, how it can be solved and why we can never give up trying. The Last Hunger season chronicles the lives and work of small farmers in Kenya and the steps they take, with the help of an innovative American nonprofit, to grow more food, feed their families three meals a day year-round and make better lives for their children. A natural storyteller, Thurow infuses his book with memorable characters, strong drama and novelistic pacing. You will come away from reading this book with greater knowledge about hunger and solutions, as well as utter awe for the perseverance and resourceful of people who battle tremendous challenges in order to give their children the lives and opportunities that we hope for our own children.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By L. Wagner on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Being from the farm, I found Roger Thurow's book, The Last Hunger Season, to be a challenge for every human being to help out their `neighbor' to eliminate hunger. In our world of plenty, no one should be going hungry or be starving to death. Yet as our world grows in population, there is a need to increase productivity worldwide.

Through the brain-child operation, One Acre Fund, administered by Andrew Youn, a social entrepreneur who was earning his MBA at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Kenya's smallholder farmers were taught how to manage and grow bigger and better crops to sustain them through the hunger season. Though Andrew wasn't a farmer, he did know how to manage. In his mind, "The existence of hungry farmers is completely crazy. It's mind-boggling. A hunger season shouldn't exist." I totally agree. It's unbelievable, yet it was happening.

This book is the story of four smallholder farmers that Roger Thurow followed for a year, throughout all the different seasons of farming. It started out as a picture of malnourished children, backbreaking manual labor (mostly done by the women), meager provisions from the crops, the stress of financial concerns for schooling their children, and the mountainous hopelessness of going through the wanjala-a hunger season that could stretch from one month to nine, depending on the year.

With the help of One Acre Fund, they were hoping to overcome the oppressive poverty and hunger. As a former farm girl, it was a thrilling and educational read to see how all the monumental red tape and access to good seed was a constant concern and how One Acre Fund was willing to stay the course, working out problems and issues that arose. Others had tried, failed and left.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Keyon Dupre on May 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
The strength of this book is the rare access the author gets to the lives of the rural poor. Beyond just recounting the challenges of the farmers, the author is able to present a picture of the thoughts and worries they face each day. The farmers are humanized, rather than just treated as victims.

The weakness is that the book doesn't get much beyond the basics of the farmer's lives. One Acre Fund, an NGO the farmers work with, is presented as the answer to every prayer. Questions like, "why is the Kenyan government not paying for this intervention," "is One Acre Fund's NGO approach inhibiting private sector led efforts," and "can One Acre Fund really scale to a meaningful level?" are not addressed. Also, there are parallels drawn between the local farmers and struggles about the foreign aid budget in the US Congress, but the connection is barely drawn. Toward the end we learn that One Acre Fund receives some funding from the US government, but it's a few million dollars, which is relatively minor. How effective is the rest of the US government's one billion dollar "Feed the Future" budget.

Despite a superficial treatment of larger policy questions, the book is worth the read to get a better sense of the day-to-day concerns of some of the poorest people in the world.

One additional note, the title seems to be a bit wishful thinking at this point. It would be more accurate to put a question mark at the end of it.
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